Netbooks originally addressed the need for affordable and highly portable devices aimed at basic computing — email, web surfing and light productivity work. Some would argue that Apple's iPad now fills that niche, and with Apple selling two million units in the first two months since launch, it's worth asking whether netbooks are still relevant.
The netbook phenomenon kicked off in October 2007 with the launch of the ASUS Eee PC 701, a 7in., 900MHz Celeron-M-based system weighing 920g and costing £219
To help shed a little light on this question, we asked Asus, Dell and Acer to supply us with three netbooks — at the high-end, mid-range and low end respectively — to spend some time with and discover whether any or all of them remain suited to that universal, go-everywhere computer role.
We define a netbook as a device that uses an Intel Atom or equivalent processor, has a screen no bigger than 12in., delivers extended (>4h) battery life and costs no more than £400 (inc. VAT). Note that the Apple iPad costs between £429 and £699 (inc. VAT) depending on configuration.